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'A virgin on the inspection altar'

In the first of an occasional series, Brenda Roe takes a wry governor's-eye view of "being Ofsteded"

"SO IT'S going to be a busy week," the head said cheerily, after bringing me up-to-date with the state of our maths co-ordinator's back (at least two weeks off), and the deputy head's early retirement application (no way).

But it's not too bad. If we just permanently exclude all known viruses, we should, barring accidents, have caught up with the supply bill sometime in summer term 2002.

"By the way," she adds. "I've got news of some visitors. Bet you can't guess?"

Oh, but I can. The shadow of doom is at last descending, We knew that, like endless childhood summers, the chill would eventually come. OFSTED is back.

It's not that we don't welcome the chance to be cleansed of our sins by Woody's team of clip-board missionaries. We have, after all, been converted in mind, if not soul, to the sacrament of the strategies (literacy and numeracy).

But what if they don't like us? What if the minutes for last November's curriculum meeting never resurface from under the pile of Departmen for Education and Employment spectrum papers?

What if they discover I'm an imposter, that I can't even manage my own teenaged six-year-old, let alone be entrusted with the delicate minds of another 250 children? What if the maths co-ordinator's back never heals and the Antipodean supply teachers can't deliver the literacy hour to our reception babies?

But apparently there is a way round this last one, I'm later told by my vice-chair, a veteran in this inspection lark. Ringers.

Now I would never tick the "naive" box on a self-assessment form, but I was shocked. The idea is that you bring in an experienced professional to cover for illness or weakness just for the inspection, possibly even in a like-for-like deal with a good neighbour. Surely it can't be right?

As a virgin on the altar of inspection, there are many more rituals I will need to learn. My first lesson was that S1, S2, S3 and S4 are not bus timetables, but Very Important Forms to be filled in prior to the visitation. I'm sure there will be many more.

The author is chair of governors at an inner-city primary

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